HORT*3270 Medicinal Plants

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The following description is for the course offering in Winter 2023 and is subject to change. It is provided for information only. The course outline distributed to the class at the beginning of the semester describes the course content and delivery, and defines the methods and criteria to be used in establishing the final grades for the course.

This course will focus on the application of recent biotechnology advances to elucidate the physiology, biochemistry, and conservation biology of medicinal plants for enhancing their efficacy in preventing and curing human disease. 

Medicinal plants are used as a form of primary or secondary health care around the world for healing the conditions of the body and mind. This course will explore interdisciplinary aspects of medicinal plant history, use, cultivation, conservation, and the regulation of plant based medicines.

Pre-Requisites: 1 of BIOL*1050, BIOL*1070, BIOL*1080, BIOL*1090


Teaching Assistant:

Credit Weight:


Course Level:

  • Undergraduate

Academic Department (or campus):

Department of Plant Agriculture



Semester Offering:

  • Winter

Class Schedule and Location:

Please refer to WebAdvisor for class schedule and location.

Learning outcomes:

Specific Learning Objectives:

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  1. Analyze literature on traditional knowledge of the role of plants and related alternate medicine practices for the treatment of chronic diseases and improvement of health conditions in view of the new evidence provided by modern science and technologies.
  2. Review scientific papers on concepts, technologies, business, and regulatory perspectives on medicinal plant production, efficacy and conservation.
  3. Integrate and organize scientific reports and present the findings in a seminar format.
  4. Analyze, integrate, and organize scientific literature on the role and importance of medicinal plants in improving human health and welfare and community development in different cultures.


Lecture Content:

Medicinal plants are used around the world for healing conditions of the body and mind. Despite their importance as a form of primary or secondary health care in the developing and developed world, concern towards medicinal plant cultivation, safety, efficacy, and public acceptance remains high. This course will explore the following interdisciplinary aspects of medicinal plants.

  1. The evolution of medicinal plants and plant based medicine in major traditional medical systems of the world: India (Ayurveda), China (Traditional Chinese Medicine), and the Western world (Natural Health Products).
  2. International trade of medicinal plants and the regulation of their use including:  safety, quality, consistency, and adulteration.
  3. Application of biotechnologies such as micropropagation, genetic engineering, controlled environment systems, as well as, the use of DNA barcoding and analytical chemistry during the production of plant medicines.
  4. Importance and current status of the conservation of medicinal plant species.
  5. Cultural and social aspects of medicinal plants and the scientific basis of traditional practices.

Lecture Content:

  • Course Outline, Schedule, Philosophy of Teaching
  • Medicinal plants – A historical perspective
  • Ethnomedicine: Traditional knowledge and plant medicine
  • Herbal Medicines: Safety, quality, efficacy, regulations
  • Regulations for Natural Health products
  • Medicinal Phytochemistry - Origin and major pathways & Biosynthesis and storage
  • Phytochemical analysis
  • DNA bar coding for medicinal plants
  • Plant Tissue Culture - Techniques
  • Bio-cultural diversity and medicinal plants
  • Micropropagation & controlled environment production
  • Medicinal plant conservation
  • Medicinal plant Cryo-conservation
  • Psychoactive plants
  • Spiritual Botany

Note that there will be Guest lecturers at various classes in the semester

*Topic order are subject to change.


Labs & Seminars:

There are no labs scheduled for this course.


Will be discussed in class.


Course Assignments and Tests:

Assignment or Test Contribution to Final Mark (%) Learning Outcomes Assessed

Mid-term exam

35% 2



1, 2

Seminar Presentation


1, 3

Research Project Report



Final examination:

There is no regular final exam in this course. Students will submit the project report by April 17, 2023. Details of the research project are provided in the course outline and will be discussed in the lectures also.

Course Resources:

Required Texts:


Recommended Texts:

References will be provided during lectures. The students will access these research papers from journals and texts from the library. 

As a student, you have access to the University of Guelph’s library collection, including both physical and electronic materials. For information on checking out or couriering physical library items, accessing electronic journals and returning items to the library, visit the library's website.
If you are studying off campus and would like to access the library’s electronic resources, use the Off Campus Login and login using your Single Sign On credentials or using your last name and library barcode.
Lab Manual:


Other Resources:


Field Trips:


Additional Costs:


Course Policies:

Grading Policies:

All exams and assignments are due on dates indicated. Mark will be reduced for each day of late submission as indicated. Delay in topic selection will lead to 0.5% total (out of the final 100) for every day. All submissions will be made by email as word files attachment.

Course Policy on Group Work:

Research paper project and seminar presentation in this course will be conducted in groups (4 students per group) depending on class enrolment. All students in the group will receive the same mark for abstract, research report as well as seminar presentation. Students must report to the instructor in writing if a group member is not fulfilling his/her assigned task and any other issue which can delay the overall progress/performance of the group.

Course Policy regarding use of electronic devices and recording of lectures:

Electronic recording of lectures is expressly forbidden.

Other Course Information:

Criteria for Evaluation

The criteria to evaluate the students will include the test of knowledge of concepts and the ability to communicate through a) examination consisting of short questions or multiple choice or any other similar questions; b) the writing of a research paper on a selected topic based on literature review; and Students are encouraged that to highlight research findings or specific concepts/philosophies related to medicinal plants in a creative fashion in the assignment. A regular attendance to the lectures will greatly help in getting good results.

General learning outcomes and associated specific methods of teaching and evaluation are listed below:

Critical and Creative Thinking: An interdisciplinary approach integrating fundamental principles of plant physiology, growth, medicinal chemistry, and biotechnology are the key element of this course. An understanding of the topics and writing the research papers on relevant issues will require collection, sorting, assessment, and critical evaluation of the subject matter. The quality of writing for these research reports would be expected to meet the standards of publication in an established journal of plant medicine or natural health products. This process will also highlight the importance of the depth and breadth of understanding of the subject matter. The students will be taught the method of writing scientific papers and given instructions to prepare a manuscript for submission to a magazine or journal. The examination process will evaluate student’s ability to develop an understanding of the scientific concepts and technologies as well as their skills of synthesis, writing, and attention to details for presenting the information in an organized fashion.

Inquiry: The topics dealing with traditional uses of medicinal plant species invariably involve the elements of myth, philosophy, and societal forces in addition to science and technology. The search for the scientific relevance of interdisciplinary aspects will provide the students with an opportunity to get familiar with various forms of inquiry. This course will also include lectures and interactions with expert guest speakers from academia and the natural health product industry. In-depth analysis of literature required for writing research paper will assess student’s understanding, knowledge, and capacity of learning. Collectively, these exercises will provide the students an opportunity to enhance their skills of inquiry.

Numeracy: The students will be required to read papers, which provide quantitative analyses of plant chemicals and magnitude of responses they invoke in human physiological functions. The compilation of review will also require an understanding of basic quantitative and statistical analyses to separate the significant effects of medicinal plants in modulating various human activities against the placebo. The students will trace the events and impacts of plant medicines from historical perspectives as well as their validity in recent times giving them a sense of the magnitude and continuity of change over time.

Professional and Ethical Behavior: This course deals with issues that relate to human health. In the research project, the students will be required to provide their own assessment of specific medicinal plant species and associated practices. Issues such the use of intoxicating chemicals to control mood swings or as medications would stimulate in-depth inquiry, understanding, assessment, and moral maturity to express personal views. Together, the medical relevance of the use of plants and a continuous exposure of our society to holistic approaches to better living is highly likely to stimulate the love of learning and enhance professional maturity.

Global Understanding: In recent years the quest for longevity and an improved quality of life has increased the use of natural therapeutics, resulting in a wider acceptance of plant medicines in the Western world. This increased interest has also brought about the great challenge of maintaining a balance between the demand of expanding markets for plant medicines and the need to protect medicinal biodiversity. Unfortunately, one third of all plant species on earth are under threat of extinction due to overharvest, disease and insects, pollution, and the escalating loss of natural habitats resulting from the activities of a rapidly growing human population. Rising global temperature and climate change are even more serious threats to survival of many medicinal plant species. Medicinal plant species are central to holistic lifestyles in many different cultures around the world highlighting the need for conservation of biocultural diversity globally. Lectures will address these issues to provide global perspectives on medicinal plant conservation and human health.

Communicating: The criteria used to evaluate the students will include the test of knowledge of concepts, numeracy and ability to communicate.


University Policies

Academic Consideration

When you find yourself unable to meet an in-course requirement because of illness or compassionate reasons, please advise the course instructor in writing, with your name, id#, and e-mail contact. See the academic calendar for information on regulations and procedures for Academic Consideration:

Academic Misconduct

The University of Guelph is committed to upholding the highest standards of academic integrity and it is the responsibility of all members of the University community, faculty, staff, and students  to be aware of what constitutes academic misconduct and to do as much as possible to prevent academic offences from occurring.

University of Guelph students have the responsibility of abiding by the University's policy on academic misconduct regardless of their location of study; faculty, staff and students have the responsibility of supporting an environment that discourages misconduct. Students need to remain aware that instructors have access to and the right to use electronic and other means of detection. Please note: Whether or not a student intended to commit academic misconduct is not relevant for a finding of guilt. Hurried or careless submission of assignments does not excuse students from responsibility for verifying the academic integrity of their work before submitting it. Students who are in any doubt as to whether an action on their part could be construed as an academic offence should consult with a faculty member or faculty advisor.

The Academic Misconduct Policy is detailed in the University Calenders:


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For more information, contact CSD at 519-824-4120 ext. 56208 or email sas@uoguelph.ca or visit the Student Accessibility Services website: http://www.uoguelph.ca/csd/.

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